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There is Love and There is Love

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

“And Isaac loved (Vaye’ehav) Esau because game was in his mouth, but Rebecca loves (Oheves) Jacob.” (Genesis 25:28) This verse describes the love of Isaac and Rebecca towards their children, Esau and Jacob. A closer look at the language of the verse reveals two subtle but very revealing distinctions.

When describing Isaac’s love for Esau, the Torah uses the future conjugation of the Hebrew root Ahav (meaning love) and adds a conjunction letter so that the future form becomes past tense and, therefore, reads “And Isaac loved (Vaye’ehav) Esau…” However, when describing the love of Rebecca for Jacob, the Torah uses the present tense form “…but Rebecca loves (Oheves) Jacob.” Additionally, the Torah gives a reason for Isaac’s love of Esau but provides no reason for Esau’s love of Rebecca. What is the reason for these textual differences?

Isaac saw great future potential in Esau. He saw his potential to serve God while being involved in hunting (the material world.) He envisioned a world in which Esau would partner with Jacob, providing Jacob with the physical sustenance necessary to pursue greater spiritual heights. Isaac did not love Esau for what he was but, rather, loved him for what he anticipated Esau could accomplish in the future. Rebecca, on the other hand, loved Jacob’s essence. She simply loved his essence without any external reason and without any future expectations or demands. In the end, when Isaac realizes his mistaken future vision of Esau, his love for Esau becomes a thing of the past. Rebecca’s love for Jacob, on the other hand, endures.

I think there is a very important life lesson here: Love towards a person that is in any way dependent on the person changing his/her behavior in the future, is doomed to failure. Only love that is based on what is present here and now will endure. It is common for people to remain in relationships with the delusion that in the future they will change their partners. Loving a person for how he/she is now and accepting his/her deficiencies (which we all have) completely are the ingredients necessary for true lasting love.